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Men piling on more pounds than women, says study.

The results show that gender has a significant impact on BMI, with 70 per cent of men noted as overweight or obese, compared to just 41 per cent of women.

Dubai - With almost two thirds of UAE residents classed as overweight or obese, a new survey has revealed that Egyptians and Jordanians in the UAE have the biggest waistlines, and when it comes to gender, men outweigh women.

After surveying the Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20,000 residents in the UAE who applied to purchase life insurance and critical illness cover with Zurich International Life, figures revealed the average age of claimants was a "worryingly young" 51.

According to chief underwriter at Zurich International Life, Chris Bagnall, a high BMI was associated with many of these claims.

The results show that gender has a significant impact on BMI, with 70 per cent of men noted as overweight or obese, compared to just 41 per cent of women.

A health indicator commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obese adults, a BMI reading measures a person's index of weight-for-height. A normal weight reading should come in at between 18.5-24.9, while overweight readings come in at between 25-29.9.

Interestingly, this latest survey revealed the average BMI in the UAE is 25.6; meaning the average UAE resident is overweight. For men, the average reading came out at 26.4, whereas the average BMI for a woman sat at 24.2 -- within the healthy weight range.

In total, it found that 47.5 per cent of UAE residents are overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 30, while a further 13 per cent are obese, with a BMI of over 30.

It seems age also has a significant impact on BMI. For those in the 20-24-year-old category, 28 per cent were classed as overweight and seven per cent obese. For those aged between 40-44 years, the figures climbed to 52 per cent overweight and 15 per cent obese. But fast forward another 20 years and it's the pensioners who are struggling most, with 61 per cent of 60-64-year-olds noted as overweight and 25 per cent obese.

With added weight comes added health implications and as a person's BMI increases the risk of various health-related problems does too. From diabetes to hypertension, weight-related illnesses are putting a massive strain on the healthcare sector here.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 2.8 million people worldwide die each year due to being overweight or obese. And in a recent Middle East Healthcare Outlook report by Deloitte, overall healthcare spending in the UAE is expected to increase from an estimated $14.0 billion in 2013 to $19.6 billion in 2018. A high incidence of lifestyle-related diseases was noted as one of the contributing factors to this rise in spending.

Spending data from Zurich International Life also revealed that 48 per cent of the $47 million (Dh173 million) it has paid in claims in the Middle East over the past three years was linked to heart-related diseases often caused by having a high BMI.

Who is biggest?

When it comes to weight versus nationality, Zurich's analysis also found this has a bearing on BMI. The results show Egyptian (BMI of 27.6) and Jordanian (BMI of 27.2) residents have the highest average BMI, while Emiratis come in at number four, with a reading of 26.54.

Speaking to Khaleej Times about the survey's alarming figures, Abu Dhabi-based Laparoscopic and Bariatric Surgeon, Dr Patrick Noel, said the results strongly correlate with his main clientele for weight loss surgery.

"Today, most of my patients are Arab. Some of the highest BMI are founded in the Middle East and that is mainly due to cultural reasons (often) relating to the fatty food intake here."

He said the increasing arrival of western junk food in these regions is also to blame for expanding waistlines and noted that the hot climate meant people used cars to get around rather than walking.

The nationality with the healthiest BMI is the Chinese with just 27.3 per cent noted as overweight or obese, followed by Filipinos at 42.8 per cent. The average BMI reading for the Chinese is 23 while for Filipinos it is 24.34.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:May 26, 2015
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